The first thing you see is a man, obviously young, running as fast as he can. He loses his footing and sprawls on the pavement, sliding forward, palms down, his own momentum carrying him out of the frame.
Right behind him: a man with a gun.
The gunman is running too, pointing a gun at the first man, and he runs out of the frame before the two re-appear at a right angle and then disappear at top speed out the top of the frame.
The footage is from a video camera bolted to the outside wall of Maria Moses' house overlooking Ramsay Street in Southwest Baltimore. The camera system there is elaborate; Moses—who did time a decade or so back for drug dealing—is "a neighborhood watch," she says, working to put criminals away.
But even with video, this is not easy.
When Moses called City Paper about the incident a month ago, she said police would not even look at her footage—and cops who happened by right after the incident declined to investigate.
She did eventually show the footage, as well as other video she says is related to a stabbing that happened two days before the shooting, to detectives. "But I haven't heard nothing about it," Moses says.
"They have cameras," she says of the police. "I told them to check the cameras."
Police spokesman Det. Jeremy Silbert says there were two arrests in the stabbing: Sharon McNeil and Donald Haskins were charged with first-degree assault and many lesser charges, though the online court record shows Haskins' charges were dropped on July 9. But of the shooting, he has no record.
Maria Moses is a unique character in her neighborhood of Mount Clare, and in Baltimore. But she is also illustrative of the troubles Baltimore has, and the troubles its neighbors and police have in trying to stem the violence that grips the city. The issues include lack of staff, difficulty getting good witnesses, and even technical glitches.
Moses keeps her surveillance videos on her phone. They are second generation—she pointed her phone's camera at the screen of her video system, the only way she knows how to keep them, she says. And getting them off the phone will be problematic. Eventually one of Moses's adult sons transfers them to a laptop and then to a thumb drive.
Moses says she knows the names of the people her cameras captured on those days, but City Paper could not confirm them, and several of them appear to be juveniles.
The gun action was on June 25. One man wanted to buy a gun from the other, but things went sideways, Moses says, claiming to have gotten the story from street sources.
Moses cannot tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. She starts a story and then, before she gets halfway through, starts another one, about another insult or assault or court case she's embroiled in. Getting back to the first one is hard, because usually that second story is interrupted by a third or a fourth anecdote. The names come, the nicknames—Taco, Big B—a rogue's gallery of the neighbors you find in a tough 'hood.
The two young men in the video both work for the same drug dealer, Moses says, but they had a dispute about the gun—specifically whether the buyer was going to actually pay for it.
"I seen him, Taco, go toward him and then I see running and all of a sudden BOOM. Then it must have jammed," Moses says.
That the gun apparently jammed is the kind of irony any Baltimore cop could probably appreciate: One bad guy wants to rip off another bad guy for a gun that turns out to be defective anyway.
There have been two murders in Mount Clare so far this year. On April 25, 2-year-old Tyleah Fenwick was murdered on the 400 block of Furrow Street, and just before midnight on May 22 James Mckoy, a 21-year-old African-American man, was shot to death on the 1900 block of Wilhelm Street, one of three people shot there that night.
Moses says most of the city's gangs control small sections of the neighborhood, each handling just a block or two where drug dealing, prostitution, and drug-treatment houses operate in symbiosis. Taco is not officially affiliated with any gang, according to Moses, but the Bloods, BGF, Dead Man Inc., and MS-13 are present here. "They all work together," Moses says. "If someone doesn't have merchandise, the other will have it." This is because, despite their differing gang affiliations, most of the boys in the neighborhood grew up together here, she says.
Listening to Moses, one gets an idea of the complex and difficult job city detectives have. Not only do they have to deal with the shootings that hit—361 as of July 28—there are hundreds more near-misses that need to be investigated. And most of them feature few witnesses who are willing to talk, and fewer still who can tell a straight story that a cop (or anyone else) might be able to comprehend.
Moses calls a neighbor. The woman—a 60-year resident who says she's afraid to see her name in print—confirms the broad outlines of Moses's story. She does so in the same way: branching off into other stories. Someone ought to help out the pregnant girl who sleeps under the porch at the vacant house on South Vincent Street, she says. There's the one about the family that moved away last month after their son was stabbed and stomped and slashed and nearly lost his arm. (Moses says she has some video of this case.) There's the man two doors down who got beaten so badly he went to Shock Trauma, and is rumored to be dead (he is apparently not dead, or, anyway, Baltimore Police have not named him as a homicide victim).
That man was beaten with a hammer, Moses says.
That victim ran a prostitution house, the women claim—that is, he rented out rooms in his home to prostitutes and their johns—until the young crew took over the house. "It's gotten worse and worse," the woman says. "And it's getting worse and worse."